Why I Might Not Follow Back

I like Twitter. No surprise there. I probably update around ten times a day, often with just my own nattering on or with a cool link, or replies to people. I follow more people than follow me, though a lot of that has to do with following folks with bazillions of followers who don’t know me from a bump in the road. But I do have nearly 300 people, lovely folks, who follow me.

The thing is, I don’t always follow back.

There are folks out there who follow tons of people, and without restoring to constant filtering through lists, I don’t know how they manage the information flow. I have small lists to pick out users that get lost in that volume of traffic, but for the most part I try to keep up with the feed from all the people, organizations and companies that I follow.

So if I am going to follow you, I want to know I am following a fellow human being.

Bots are fairly easy to spot. They say and spam the exact same thing to a multitude of users. They are also quickly banned, often before I have had a chance to report them.

More tricky are those in-betweeners. They have a face attached to a name, they post individual tweets, but all they do is post a stream of web-page links. If they were a regular spammer, it would all be the same link, the same scam, over and over again. But in these cases, they are often legitimate links.

But that’s all they ever post. Link after link after link. It might be constant spam of their own web-based content (whorey) or it may be a stream of links on a related topic, even topics I am interested in (which makes me wonder if they are a more sophisticated form of advertising).

It’s not enough, though. I have no idea of the person behind the tweets. Do I need to know your life story, or all of your dark little secrets? No, but I do want to know that there is a living, breathing person behind every tweet, one that maybe had marmalade on their toast this morning or who got flipped off by a crazy driver on the road or who got flowers from their boyfriend or whose fish died today and had to flush it down the toilet. By all means, post that link to that really cool new gadget or that new album by your favorite artist or a link to your latest blog entry … but don’t let that be all you ever tweet.

And once I know a little about you, then your links become all the more meaningful, all the more likely to be clicked. In a strange way, I find Twitter much more personal than Facebook, which has everything held tight behind wall after wall of security settings. Twitter has always felt more frank, more open, more whimsical than Facebook ever did. A stream of never-ending links is almost like emailing someone and typing it all in capital letters. You’re shouting at me, not talking with me. And I tune out, or I don’t follow.

So, I don’t auto-follow back. You gotta pass the person test. At least, my version of it.

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